Asbestos is a nasty thing to encounter in your house. Also bad is the prospect of paying for an abatement company to remove the asbestos (at high cost) or removing the asbestos yourself (at a high cost to you, in various other ways).
First question, though: Do you even have asbestos? And if you think you have it, how can you confirm that it actually is asbestos?
Not Every Scary-Looking Material Is Asbestos
As one example, when you go into your attic and see gray, fluffy material, it turns out that this is quite harmless: cellulose insulation.
Knew that already? How about that material with the mica-like shine and gray-brown or silver-gold color? That wicked-looking material must be asbestos.
No, actually it is an ancestor to today's fiberglass insulation, a loose-fill called Zonolite. The only sure way is to test.
Most homeowners decline to test for asbestos, feeling that the cost of true laboratory testing itself will be too high.
While it is possible to spend hundreds on lab testing, there are cheaper ways to ensure that your home is safe. You can either send samples to a laboratory or have an inspector come to your home to take samples.
1. Solid and Friable Materials: Cheapest Method
Several laboratories offer mail-away testing. Basically, you cut out a small sample of the material in question, put it in a sealed bag, and mail the sample to the laboratory.
Types of materials you might send to a lab include:
One to two weeks later, the lab reports back to you whether the material is positive or negative for asbestos. Cost is about $50 per sample for non-rush work and about $80 for rush (within 24 hours) work.
This excludes mailing costs. Some labs offer a reduced rate for additional samples.
2. Dust Samples: Cost Is Significantly Higher
If you only have a sample of dust that you are sending off, the cost skyrockets. Labs ask you to scoop up as much settled dust as possible to gather 1 teaspoon full.
If you cannot gather that much dust, use a damp tissue to wipe the dust and enclose the tissue in a Zip-Lock bag. Because asbestos dust sampling requires an electron microscope, the cost is about three times as high as conventional asbestos testing.
Beware of Some Home Testing Kits
Some home testing kits are unbelievably cheap. You might look at it and say, "Under ten dollars? Count me in!" But that is just the up-front cost. You still need to pay mailing costs and lab fees, which can run another $50 or more.
After sending your sample to a lab across the country, you may not even get your results back. In other words: scam alert.
SLG's Home Testing Kit (below) does include shipping and lab fees. But this is not a recommendation for SLG's kit; you are cautioned to read customer reviews and make your own decision.